Professor Dean also hints that breed standards may need to be re-written by asking: "...can we continue to accept ‘some haw showing’ or descriptors in breed standards that suggest triangular shaped eyes? These are all divergent from the normal eyelid that dogs need to maintain good ocular health."
In a statement released this afternoon to Dog World (see it in full here) , Prof Dean congratulates the nine breeds that passed the vet checks but argues that the vet checks are necessary to ensure that dogs with clinical problems resulting from exaggerated conformation issues are not rewarded.
"...the fact that nine breeds passed the checks and that in the main, the concerns highlighted in those that failed were not linked to problems relating to lameness, skin disorders or respiratory distress, must be a reason for congratulation. It is recognised that even the breeds that failed have made huge strides forward in recent years and this progress needs to continue particularly in relation to externally visible eye disease.
Prof Dean explains that the breeds came to be highlighted following the 1995 European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals which "listed some 30 breeds detailing deleterious conditions which, it claimed, if not addressed could warrant action to prevent further breeding. The KC considered the list and reduced it to 14 breeds in line with available evidence in the UK. The Chinese Crested was added later because of concerns that cosmetic shaving or hair removal was causing skin damage."
Actually, this isn't quite right - 1995 was when specific mention was added of specific breeds of particular concern but the European Conventon itself dates from 1987 (and in fact has been signed and ratified by 22 countries - but not the UK due in part to obbying by the KC).
And while it was, indeed, the UK Government's interest in the Convention that in 2002 triggered the KC into founding their Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (now called the Dog Health Group), there were only 10 breeds on the KC list until March 2008.
Those 10 breeds were the Bloodhound, Bulldog, Clumber Spaniel, Chow Chow, Dogue de Bordeaux, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, St Bernard and Shar pei. The German Shepherd and Basset Hound were added in March 2008; the pug after it was highlighted in Pedigree Dogs Exposed and the Crestie a little later after I, and others, highlighted the problems associated with the wholescale denuding of dogs (using razors and depilatory cremes) that were not "true" hairless in order to win in the show-ring.
Prof Dean points out that part of the rationale for the vet checks was that ringside observers appointed by the KC to monitor judges consistently score dogs lower in terms of health and welfare than do judges, and that a system of voluntary veterinary referral - introduced three years ago - had not worked as well as hoped.
In response to accusations that singling out 15 breeds is unfair and discriminatory, Prof Dean explains:
"In short the risk to health is greater for the 15 listed breeds but breeds can be added to the list if a case is made that health and welfare is significantly compromised by exaggerated conformation."
Other points made by Professor Dean include:
• that the presence of ectropion or entropion on its own was not sufficient reason for disqualification - there had to be accompanying pathology - either curent inflammation or evidence of chronic damage.
• it was agreed in advance that a pen torch could be used if the light in the examination room was insufficient. In the event, one was used only on the first day, after which lighting was improved in the examination room.
• no other diagnostic tools were used and it has been agreed that, in future, lighting will be sufficient to negate the need for a pen torch.
Challenging reports that BOB winners were rushed away from the ring and had to travel some distance to be examined, Prof Dean insists:
• an examination area was provided in each of the four halls at Crufts to minimise the distance any BOB need travel
• stewards were instructed to wait for the BOB to complete their post judging celebrations before acompanying dog and handler to the veterinary check area.
Prof Dean also defends the appointment of independent vets, pointing out that it was done to avoid any charges of partisanship, and he praises the two vets that did the checks:
"Both are general practitioners with background experience of either veterinary duties at championship dog shows or with some historical experience of breeding and showing dogs. They are reasonable, sensible, experienced vets and I have every confidence that they followed their brief accurately and that their conclusions were valid."
In conclusion, Professor Dean says:
"It is very regrettable that we need to use a veterinary check before the BOB award can be confirmed at championship level and I feel very sorry for those whose dogs failed the check. However, it is important to realise that 15 high-profile breeds do have conformational exaggerations that have led to avoidable conditions causing pain or discomfort and this has to be unacceptable to all of us.
"Much work has been done by the breeds to move away from these exaggerations and in a remarkably short time. As the KC, we have to provide the right framework to ensure dogs win at shows because they are typical of their breed and have good health. The veterinary check is just part of that framework and if breeders, exhibitors and judges play a full part, then the veterinary check should be a simple confirmatory procedure that could be dispensed with within a decade. However, we must recognise that some breeds will struggle with the veterinary check for some time to come.
Dog health campaigners will be delighted that the KC is standing firm - although disappointed to hear that there are no plans to demand health certificates or health test results covering inherited disease as a condition of entry at dog shows.
So there it is. A bit of a face-palm moment for the newly formed Canine Alliance which is demanding the immediate suspension of the vet checks - and, indeed, I see their leader Andrew Brace tonight is calling for the CC winners in Chinese Cresteds, Pekes and Pugs to "put principles before prizes" and refuse to challenge for Best of Breed at the next big champ show - UK Toy Dog at Staffordshire County Showground on March 31st.
Now that I can't wait to see.
The Canine Alliane's Facebook site - and connected satellite sites - are in the meantime proving a much better spectator sport than watching dogs trot round a show-ring, with whole threads being censored, people being banned and accusations and counter-accusations threatening to de-rail the whole shebang before it gets off the ground.
See for yourself here.